The Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has issued a damning report on the quick implementation of the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Work Programme, claiming that the supporting IT system was not performing appropriate checks on launch.
The Work Programme replaced almost all welfare to work programmes run by the DWP and was launched in June 2011, just twelve months after conception.
Its aim is to help long-term unemployed people back into sustainable employment and DWP estimates that over the next five years it will help up to 3.3 million people at a cost of £3 billion to £5 billion.
However, the PAC report states that the quick implementation has created problems for DWP and specifically refers to the insufficient IT systems that were put in place.
“The speed with which the Work Programme was introduced was commendable. But the quick introduction threw up risks that have to be addressed,” said Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts.
“Major projects of this nature need to be thoroughly planned. The Programme was launched before the IT system designed to support it was operational.”
She added: “At the time of the launch, the IT system could not carry out automated checks on whether the people the prime contractors said they had placed in employment had actually stopped claiming benefits.”
The report claims that reliable data on performance of the Programme will not be made available until autumn 2012, but PAC wants DWP to provide assurances that no improper payments are made to contractors before effective monitoring systems are in place.